Today you’ll learn how to “Print Then Cut” images with your Cricut Maker or Explore.
“Print Then Cut” is a setting that allows you to print your designs and then cut around them. When you have an element or design set to “Print Then Cut,” Design Space will send it to your home printer, and then it will cut it.
This feature is one of my favorite ones because I can make stickers, homeschooling activities for my kids, printables, etc.
Since I don’t want you to get lost, these are the topics I’ll cover in today’s tutorial:
- Machine Specifications
- Types of images you can use for “Print Then Cut”
- Design Space tutorial with all sorts of examples
- Printing and cutting process
- Troubleshooting if you’re having issues with your project
Tip: This tutorial builds upon the skills I teach in every step, so if you’re just starting with your machine, I suggest you read/follow each step.
If you are a beginner and are still figuring out Cricut’s software, I recommend that you read my fantastic and Ultimate Cricut Design Space tutorial.
Are you ready?
Print Then Cut Specifications
It would be best to keep in mind a couple of things before you start using this feature.
The first thing to consider is the paper size you want to use and the overall size of your design.
Cricut allows you to use two different types of page sizes.
- Letter – 8.5 x 11 in
- A4 – 8.3 x 11 in
When using letter paper, your max project size must be 9.25. x 6.75 inches, and if using A4 paper, the max project size is 6.51 x 9.93 in.
To change these settings, click on the toggle menu in the window’s upper-left corner and select “Settings.” A small window will open, click on “Load Type” and choose the “Print Then Cut Page Size” you want to work with.
All my paper is 8.5 x 11 in, so I will stick with letter paper.
The second thing you need to consider is your machine’s specifications. Here’s a quick summary of what each device is capable of.
- Cricut Explore Air 2 and older: None of the older Explore machines can “Print Then Cut” on different colors or very reflective material; make sure to print on white paper with a matte finish at all times.
- Cricut Maker, Maker 3, Explore 3: These machines have a more powerful sensor; you can cut on colored and reflective paper. However, don’t use very dark colors or very busy pattern paper because the sensor won’t be able to detect it either.
- Cricut Joy: It doesn’t support “Print Then Cut.”
What types of images can I cut with the Print Then Cut feature?
You can “Print Then Cut” any image you can upload to Design Space or from Cricut Access. In other words, anything you can place on the canvas area – where you design – can be printed and then cut.
Also, think beyond images; you can print and cut text you type in Design Space, shapes filled with Cricut or uploaded patterns, and more!
I won’t go into detail on how to upload each type of image because I will be writing a very extensive post about it soon. However, I want to mention three types of images and the differences you need to know to have a good experience with “Print Then Cut.”
1) Images With a Solid Background
These types of images are often very busy, and they usually have a solid background. They require extra work because you must isolate the image you want to cut.
When you upload these images, Cricut can’t read what the image is all about.
It can only read the edges of it. So, unless you want to cut the whole thing and not something inside, you need to delete the background.
These images have specific extensions; you can recognize them when they end in .jpg, .gif, or .bmp.
For instance, If you only wanted to cut the word dream and the star behind it, you would need to delete the pink background color; otherwise, you would print the entire design and cut a square.
You can do this in Cricut Design Space very quickly, and I will cover how to do it in the step-by-step tutorial.
2) Images with a Transparent Background
These images are a great fit because the main image, text, or element you want to cut is isolated and placed on a transparent background.
However, these images can lose some of their quality and look pixelated if you try to make them bigger.
You can recognize them when they end in .png.
Those little grey and white squares represent transparency. Therefore, you don’t have the background to delete. If you set this image as a “Print Then Cut,” the blade will go around the word dream and the star.
However, since this is a single image, you can’t separate the star from the word.
3) Vector Images
These are the best images you can use across Cricut Design Space. They are also called SVG or Cut files. The good thing about SVG files is that you can resize them without losing quality.
You can recognize these images when they end in .svg or .dxf
As you can see here, you don’t have the same options you did with the first two types of files. With SVG files, the blade knows where to go and where to cut.
With vector files, you can also edit the star and the word separately, change colors, and do other things that you wouldn’t be able to do with either JPG or PNG files.
Here’s the caveat: when using “Print Then Cut” with SVG files that overlap or have different colors, you need to use the “Flatten” tool. Don’t worry; I’ll be covering this later on.
Print Then Cut Step-by-Step Tutorial
Let’s put our Cricut to work now that you know what kind of things you can cut and your machine’s specifications.
I know I’ve said more than enough, but I assume you know nothing when you come to read one of my posts. It’s essential for me that all of my readers (a.k.a daydreamers) feel they can follow from beginning to end.
This is a functional tutorial, and It’s not meant to look super pretty or anything like that. It’s intended to teach you all your possibilities with “Print Then Cut.”
These are the following things we are going to use:
- JPG Image
- PNG Image
- SVG File
Ready, Set, GO!
Upload Images to Cricut Design Space
We will use the images I showed you at the beginning of this post.
To download the file(s), you NEED to be on a desktop or laptop, and you must click on the button to trigger a download file on your pc.
Depending on your browser settings, your PC sometimes asks where to save the file, although most of the files will be in your download folder.
If the image opens in a new window (this may happen because of your browser settings), right-click on it, select the option “Save Image As,” and choose where you want to save the file.
SVG files look like web page files when you download them.
Note: We will be doing the entire JPG file here (pink background) and have you do it with the PNG and SVG file using the concepts I explained on the types of images you could use.
After saving the images on your computer, log in to Design Space and click “Upload” on the left panel; then click on the “Upload Image.”
A new window will pop up asking you to locate the file on your computer. Search for the image and double-click on it to upload it.
We are working with a JPG file; therefore, Cricut doesn’t recognize all of the elements that make the image. The only thing Cricut can detect is a big square.
For this project, we will only use the word “Dream” and the yellow star. But, before we can do it, we need to get rid of that pink background.
How do we do that?
Since this design has only three high-contrast colors, select “Simple” and click on “Continue.”
In this section, you have different options to clean up the file. I suggest you play with them to see which one is better for your particular image.
There’s a “Remove Background” button; it works great in some cases, but it got rid of many details for this image.
My favorite way to clean up JPG images is by using the little “Magic Wand” on the left of the window.
Select the “Magic Wand” and then click on all of the pink areas to delete them. It will take a couple of clicks to get rid of all pink. After you’re done, click on continue.
You can also change the settings for the number of colors and the color tolerance (the bigger the number, the more details the wand will delete).
Tip: use the zoom in and out to delete the background that is in between small spaces.
Once you get rid of all the background, click on “Apply & Continue.”
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you don’t change the color tolerance, a few pink dots will be left on the star’s border and the word dream.
In the next step, you will see that you have two options. The first is to save the file as a “Cut Image,” and the second is to save the file as a “Print Then Cut Image.”
Select “Print Then Cut.”
The JPG one was the most complicated of the three images I provided you to recreate this tutorial. Therefore, you are ready to upload the other two on your own.
The PNG image – dream and pink star – already has a transparent background, so there’s no need to delete anything:
- Upload image
- Select “Simple”
- Don’t delete anything with the magic wand and click on continue.
- Save as a “Print Then Cut.”
The SVG file is the easiest to upload. You only need to upload it, name it (optional), and finally save it.
When you are done uploading the third file, select all three images and click on “Add to Canvas.”
All files should now be on the canvas; most likely, they are all over the place, overlapping each other, and in different sizes.
Go ahead and tide up the canvas area so it looks like the screenshot down below.
Watch out! You are about to read the most IMPORTANT part of this tutorial.
If you were going to do this project right now, your machine would only “Print Then Cut” the designs with the yellow and pink Stars. (Remember, we saved them with this option in mind)
Why wouldn’t Cricut print and cut the design with the blue star?
The ANSWER is quite simple. This file is a CUT or SVG file. Whenever you upload these files, your Cricut will assume you want to cut and nothing else.
How do you tell your machine to “Print Then Cut?“
There are two ways to tell your machine that something needs to be printed and then cut. The first one is through “Operation,” and the second one is “Flatten.”
Most beginners will change the “Operation” for “Print The Cut;” nonetheless, it has a big problem.
The problem with “Print Then Cut” as an “Operation” is that if you have cut files (blue star and word dream) that are overlapping each other or that also have different colors; instead of cutting around the edges as a whole, your Cricut will cut each design on a different mat; and, even if you try attaching them, one of the elements will cut through the other one.
When using “Print Then Cut,” add all of your elements (text, patterns, shapes, offsets, etc.) and at the end, select them all and click on the “Flatten” tool at the bottom of the Layers panel.
I know this doesn’t seem very easy. But, I want to explain to you the LOGIC of how things work.
Attaching and “Print Then Cut” as an operation can be used together to accomplish other projects like printing and not cutting a part of your project or adding a background to a sticker sheet.
Add extra touches – Cricut Images, Text, Shapes, Patterns, and Offsets
It’s been a lot, right?
Take a moment to stretch out, maybe grab some tea or a snack and let’s explore more things you can “Print Then Cut;” And as I just mentioned, don’t worry about “Operation.” yet.
Print Then Cut Cricut Images
All Cricut Images can be used with the “Print Then Cut” operation. Cricut has really cute stuff in its library. If you have Cricut Access, your possibilities are almost endless. Over 250.000 images for you to pick from!
To get to them, click on the “Images” icon on the canvas’s left panel. Cricut has multiple filters; I use them all the time to narrow my search on some of my projects.
If you want to use something free, you can also click on “Ownership” and check the option “Free.”
To find the exact image I used, type in “Dream Believe Achieve” on the search box.
Once you find your favorite image, select it and click “Add to Canvas.” I was not too fond of the original brown color, so I changed it to black.
Add Shapes and Patterns
I want my image to be on top of a shiny circle.
To add a circle to the canvas area, click on the “Shapes” icon on the left panel. You’ll notice the circle is grey, and I want something cooler!
Let’s change that grey color and add life with a beautiful pattern. To do this, select the circle and change the “Operation” from “Basic” to “Print Then Cut,” then click on the color box to change the “Print type” for “Pattern.”
Now you get to pick your favorite pattern. Cricut has hundreds of them, and they seem to be free for now, so take advantage of this! I really liked the rainbow one.
After picking your pattern, place the image (Dream, Believe, Achieve) on top of the circle and center it.
Tip: Most likely, the circle will be on top. To bring the image forward, right-click on it and select move forward.
Add Print Then Cut text
Text adds so much value to any design!
“Print Then Cut” wouldn’t be the same without it! To add it, click on the text icon on the canvas’s left panel.
I added the same word twice to share a point with you.
If you are using paper, you most likely want the text to be together. If you leave the word on its own, Cricut will cut each letter; and If this is what you want, great. However, if you want the entire word to remain together, you need to place it on top of a shape.
For this case, I added a square and unlocked its proportions to make a rectangle; then, I changed the color to yellow and typed daydream on it.
Offset For Print Then Cut project
One of the coolest tools you can use for “Print Then Cut” is the “Offset” tool.
Offset” tool allows you to create a proportional outline inside and outside of text, images, and shapes, and it’s perfect for making all sorts of stickers and other “Print Then Cut” projects.
Take a look at the following screenshot.
Make a copy or “Duplicate” the image we just used in the previous step.
Select the copy and click on “Offset.” Adjust the slider and click on “Apply” to create a proportional outline of your image.
I invite you to play with the “Offset” tool and see what looks good together.
When you first create the offset, it will be grey or black, and as you can see, I added the same pattern that I used on the circle.
I also used added an offset of the text. It looks so beautiful, don’t you think?
Flatten and Resize your Design
We are a couple of steps away before we print and cut this project!
Do you remember the talk we had about “Operation” and “Flatten”? Since we are done with all the designing, we need to tell Cricut that all images, text, and shapes need to be “Print Then Cut.”
If you look at the layers panel (on the right), you will see that not all the elements have the “Print Then Cut” attribute; some are set to “Basic Cut.”
However, as I explained before, you can’t just change the operation from “Cut” to “Print Then Cut.” You need to compress all of the elements that make this project into ONE SINGLE LAYER.
To do this, select all of the images, text, and shapes and click on the “Flatten” icon at the bottom of the layer’s panel.
Notice that after flattening, you only have ONE layer!
Now that we finished with the designing process, click “Make it.”
Note: Remember that the final size can’t be larger than 9.25. x 6.75 in or 6.51 x 9.93 in if using A4 paper. If your design is bigger, select the already flatten layer and resize it before clicking on Make it.
Make it – Cutting Instructions
It’s cutting time!
The following screenshot is what you see when you click on “Make it.” This preview shows you what your print should look like.
You need to make sure that you place the paper on your Cricut Mat the exact way you see it here after you are done printing.
Tip: on “Material Size,” if your design is small enough to be printed in either A4 or letter paper, you can change the paper size you’re going to use.
One of the questions I get asked the most is how do I get rid of the black box for “Print Then Cut?”
Unfortunately, you can’t get rid of it!
The black frame is a mark that serves as a reference for your Cricut to know where to cut.
Printer Set-Up and Printing Process
After leaving the mat preview, you will be given the step by step to cut your project.
The first option is “Print,” and it has a button that says “Send to Printer.” Go ahead and click there.
A little window named “Print Setup” will open. From this window, you will be able to choose your printer, add extra copies to your project, turn on bleed, and/or use your system dialog box.
The “System Dialog” is useful if you need to find your printer, change the type of paper you are using or want to save your project as a PDF and print it in a different location.
If your printer is already connected to your computer, you can leave this option off.
I usually have “Bleed” on and “System Dialog” off.
Can we just talk about “bleed” for a little bit?
Understand Bleeding once and for all
I decided to print this project with both “bleed on” and “Bleed off.” So let’s take a break to see the results, and then let’s resume with our the step to step tutorial.
The official definition of bleed in the Cricut word can be found in the “Printer Setup” window, and It says: “Bleed extends ink slightly beyond the border of image to eliminate a white margin once the image is cut.”
Check out the following photos, and let’s chat about the results.
The last photo with “bleed on” may scare you or may not because I am warning you. But the first time I saw this, I thought my “Print Then Cut” wasn’t working at all.
Don’t you think it looks extremely weird?
Thankfully I was wrong. As you can see, Design Space extended the ink in every place the blade was supposed to go. Notice that inside the designs, the fonts look just fine.
Although Cricut’s sensor is really powerful, there’s little room for error. The bleed prevents your machine from cutting inside and outside of the place where it is supposed to. For instance, photos one and two show no white border on the cut made with the bleed-om.
When I turned Bleed-off, all of the designs had a white border on some parts of the cut.
So which one should you choose? That’s up to you to decide. I like the bleed-on for all of my projects.
Now, let’s get back into our step-by-step tutorial.
Select Materials, Arrange Mat & Cut
After you print, it’s time for you to choose the material you printed on.
Choose the material from Cricut Design Space. For machines with a smart set dial, move to “Custom” to follow along. For this project, I used medium cardstock.
Install the fine point blade, place the printed project on the mat and load it into the Cricut machine. Remember that it has to look like in the preview.
After loading your mat, go ahead and press the flashing go button to start the cut.
At this very moment, you will see the magic happen!
The “Print Then Cut” sensor will turn on, and it will start reading the frame surrounding all the elements we need to cut, and once it’s done reading, the Cricut will cut them all.
When Design Space tells you the cut is done, unload your mat, and remove the project from it.
There you have it; you are PRO at “Print Then Cut!“
What to do if the Print Then Cut Option is Not Working
We are on our final stretch!
I hope you everything is smooth with your machine, but I wanted to point you to good resources if things aren’t going how they are supposed to.
If you are having any of these problems, check out Cricut’s following steps.